A soft-spoken, earnest tale about a Southern childhood, gently raking over the ground plowed up by Harper Lee and others concerned with racial injustice in the days before the full-scale struggle for civil rights. Annie Trammell, daughter of kind but wishy-washy Laurence and snappish ex-belle Louise, is savoring one ""last"" summer before the nasty business of growing up swings into high gear. The anchor in Annie's world is Rose, the Trammell's black housekeeper; and Rose's daughter Cookie is Annie's best friend. Together they raise inventive hell--from ""swearing in"" the summer on the bare toes of the sleeping town eccentric to emptying the Trammells' attic of clothes and selling them to raise money to go to Detroit. (Annie and Cookie are certain that Annie's parents are planning to marry her off to a horrid boy, and the word in black circles is that Detroit means freedom.) Then the summer sours. A black minister, getting ""uppity,"" is killed with three children by a bomb in his church, and Cookie's brother, B.C., increasingly bitter because of racial snubs, is shot by a mad neighborhood white lady. Rose has a heart attack and will die. And Laurence, learning that Annie and Cookie can identify the church bombers, must confront the demands of justice in the face of the town's hatred. At last Laurence opts for the fight, and mother Louise, leaving her ""glass cage"" of a caste-bound upbringing, stands by him. Duncan's novel is neither deep-cut nor subtle enough to sound the real depths of that ""underground stream of anger that's as dark and turgid as swamp water""; and the shadows of Mockingbird and Member of the Wedding fall rather heavily over the proceedings. Still, there's an appealing warmth and spirit in the pre-adolescent shenanigans, in the humor and pathos of the neighborhood eccentrics, and the ambience of these remembered, languorous summer days.